People might have quite a different opinion about writing meeting minutes. Some find taking notes of meeting as a daunting task for themselves, while others think that’s a simple and an ordinary thing to do.
You just listen and write, right?
In this step-by-step guide you'll learn:
What are the meeting minutes?
Meeting minutes, minutes of meeting (MoM – isn’t this a lovely abbreviation?), or a meeting protocol is a written record of discussions and decisions made during the meeting.
The first part of a term – “minute” – might make someone to think that the meeting protocol should represent all the details and dialogs minute by minute, but that’s not the case.
Why are meeting minutes important?
There are many reasons why taking meeting minutes matter. Here are 5 of them:
- Firstly, minutes of meeting are a source of information for those who didn’t attend the meeting. By this means, they will be on the same page with others, know what decisions have been made, what is their role in the process, or even what are new tasks that must be accomplished.
- Secondly, meeting minutes provide insights about the organization’s planning and goal achievement culture, as the decisions and next steps are recorded in protocols. The key to a successful meeting is a pre-defined objective, so, if there is no progress made as the result of a single or recurring meeting, perhaps that’s an indicator for a change in your teams’ meeting culture.
- Thirdly, it’s a written, agreed, and confirmed proof. Corporate minutes might provide a legal record of the meeting members’ actions and decisions, thus protection for the organization under certain circumstances.
- Fourthly, meeting minutes provide a transparent record of the decision-making process. At some point, these notes could be the answer to questions about previously made decisions.
- And, of course, recorded meeting minutes give strong arguments against procrastinating colleagues, like “Yes, you also were here and knew about this task already a month ago. So, you can’t deny it. Sorry, mate!”
What should you include in meeting minutes?
Keep in mind that there are many types of meetings that can be divided into two general groups: formal or informal meetings. This determines the format, style, and content requirements for meeting minutes. Furthermore, the content can be different depending on the organization and the type of committee or Board.
If speaking about the main details that are common to all the meeting types, there are certain requirements to provide unambiguity, certainty, and usability of meeting minutes:
- Meeting title and place
- Date and time of the meeting
- Meeting participants
- Purpose or objective
- If necessary – acceptance or corrections/amendments to previous meeting minutes
- Meeting agenda items and motions (if you’re following Robert’s Rules of Order)
- Decisions under each agenda item (actions taken, next steps, voting results, postponed items, motions taken or rejected, tasks and responsibilities, etc.)
- Date and time of the next meeting
- Additional files or links
And now let’s move further to the process of writing meeting minutes. How to manage?
Before the meeting: planning and preparing
A good meeting doesn’t start with the opening phrase from the organizer but way before that – with a clear plan and meeting agenda.
There are 2 crucial steps for excellent preparation that will save time and effort for the minutes-taker and provide to attendees a big picture and clarity about roles, responsibilities, and action plan.
1. Create a meeting agenda
Regardless of whose responsibility it is to make a meeting agenda, it’s a benefit for everyone.
First, the meeting organizer has a clear vision of a structure, agenda items, and achievable goals. Second, attendees can prepare, make their input to the agenda, and have a clear understanding of what’s going to happen during that meeting. And finally, the minutes-taker has an outline for meeting minutes, which will make this process more effective and faster.
2. Clarify expectations
If you’re a newbie within the team, organization, or in the position of minutes-taker, always remember to ask, what’s your role in the meeting, and what type of detail is expected from your protocol.
Extra Tip: It’s a good idea to ask if you need to record specific names during the discussion of proposals or from the voting.
*** Off-topic from my real life experience ***
I’ll always remember my first time as a meeting minutes taker. It was a 2-hour long conference with 40 attendees, sharp discussions, a clash of opinions, a completely new industry for me (rowing sport – can you imagine?), and I had no idea what’s important and what’s just a loud chit-chat during the conference.
So, I recorded the meeting on my phone and later transcribed everything in a blank Word document. Yup, literally everything.
As a result, this protocol was shortened by 60%, and my effort – thrown in the trash. What a pity, isn’t it?
Lessons to learn: Get to know “the room you’re entering”, find out expectations for the result, feel free to clarify your confusions.
During the meeting: record taking
So, you have a pre-defined meeting agenda – bold and clear. Great! That should be used as the outline for meeting minutes and the focus area.
How to manage work effectively during the meeting so that the secretary or minutes-taker should invest minimal effort afterward?
1. Start with the basics
Check if the time and date are correct, the title and objective are written down, and meeting attendees – marked.
Extra Tip: If you’re using a note-taking or meeting agenda app (like Meetinch), these details will be always up-to-date and precise.
2. Focus on what’s most important
If meeting goal and agenda items are defined by the start of the team meeting, you already know what’s important and the main points are clear.
Use these meeting agenda items as the topics below which to add decisions and other related notes.
3. Be concise
Your records should be as concise as possible, but fully understandable to those who will read meeting minutes after that.
Don’t try to capture it all – pay attention to speakers and focus on decisions, action steps, and important tasks.
4. Keep the meeting minutes equitable
Minutes-taker must leave a personal opinion, judgment, and bias outside the room. Staying professional and providing an objective stance on what’s discussed is the main task for the person.
5. Ask for clarification
Speak up if something is not fully understandable – it’s ok to interrupt the meeting if your role is a meeting notes taker. If the team moves on without making a decision (or doing it distinctly), ask for clarification. It’s more effective to clear it up during the meeting than poking colleagues with a question “Can you remind me what did you actually decided?” afterward.
Extra Tip: After each agenda item note-taker could sum-up, “Alright, here’s what I’ve recorded. Should I add something?” By this, the team is consistently engaged in the conversation and there’s no room for misunderstanding.
6. Assign action items
The most effective way to get things done is to put the right person as the responsible and add a deadline to the task. Break down decisions into action items and specific tasks. Grow the culture of responsibility and accountability within meetings, and it will improve the performance of the team.
7. Use a digital tool for meeting management
Sometimes a basic text editor is just not enough for the speed of meeting actions.
Meetinch is a collaborative meeting tool to plan, run, and record meetings. In a nutshell, it provides participants with a strong meeting agenda built into the meeting request.
During the meeting, there’s a collaborative platform to record decisions, generate tasks for individuals, write personal notes, track time, and manage other things that matter. After the conference is done, the minutes-taker can edit the summary, add additional info, and adjust the format of automated meeting minutes.
And that’s it – easy and fast!
Here’s a really short video to give insights about how to create meeting minutes effectively with the help of digital tools.
After the meeting: transcribing and sharing
And here comes the part of wrapping-up. The main idea about the minutes-taker’s actions after the meeting is divided into 4 parts.
1. Just do it
Don’t wait for inspiration – pull together your notes and write the minutes as soon after the meeting as possible. You’ll have the most precise results if the conversation is still fresh in your mind.
Review recorded information and check if all decisions, actions, motions, and tasks are noted. Add extra info: due dates, accountable and responsible persons, results of the voting.
Extra Tip: For meeting minutes of formal meetings try to include a really short description of each action taken and the rationale behind the decision.
2. Add links or relevant documents
To make meeting minutes fully usable and easy to understand, include all the resources that are relevant to records, for example, presentations, briefs, links to pages, etc.
3. Approval of meeting minutes
Before sharing minutes of formal events such as committee or board of directors meeting, usually, they must be reviewed, approved, or even signed by the chair, so that they can be considered as an official document.
Sometimes approval of meeting minutes can happen at the beginning of the next meeting.
4. Meeting notes sharing
Probably the most important part of minutes taking – make sure every person involved has access to notes. It’s up to an organization’s or teams’ rules where to store meeting notes – whether it’s a shared cloud folder, intranet site, or meeting minute app. The main goal is to track previous results and the process of decision-making.
Example: The Most Effective Way of Writing Meeting Minutes
Let’s go through an example to see how meeting management tool Meetinch can automate processes and save some time to focus on non-meeting work.
1. Meeting agenda
The first step on the highway to success is a clear meeting request.
Meetinch works as a plugin inside your email and gives the ability to add a meeting agenda to every meeting invitation you’re sending out. It includes the name and objective of the meeting, a list of agenda items (topic, duration, short description, a responsible participant for this item), and a link to the collaborative meeting workspace.
This way it’s a win-win: for the meeting organizer a well-planned structure and attendees – a clear vision of the agenda and their role.
2. Collaborative meeting workspace
The secret of effective meeting minutes is collaboration. I mean, it’s a good practice to have one particular person in the team whose role is a note-taker, but to improve the process of running a meeting, collaboration is the key.
Shared workspace for meeting minutes gets everyone on the same page. Literally. Write tasks, make notes, record decisions, and correct any mistakes in real-time. This saves a lot of effort afterward because every attendee has seen these notes already and if there’s something they want to add or improve – just do it at the same time.
3. Automatic summary and adjusting
If you’ve managed to record decisions during the meeting, every teammate has seen them, there’s nothing left.
Right after you slink the button “END MEETING” you’ll have a choice – whether to send this summary automatically to everyone’s email or download it, adjust, add some extra notes, and share it afterward. Easy as that!
Meeting minutes are important for progress tracking, information sharing, and traceability of the decision-making process. If the meeting is the way to solve a problem, then meeting minutes are accurate documentation of how it has been done. With a clear accountability boosting action plan.
No doubt about that.
And sometimes it’s event amazing how skillful minute-takers are – it’s not easy to get the essence from the most chaotic or complicated meetings.
I hope this guide will help you to achieve excellent results without spending lots of time or rewriting the voice recording from the meeting (like I did some years ago…). Good luck!